We signed up for a boat tour of the upper part of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison on Thursday. There are a series of dams on the river that created a relatively smooth stretch of water down in a narrow section of the canyon and the Park Service does a 2 hour pontoon-boat tour. It was a very cloudy day, thus the almost white skies in all the photos. I really need to photoshop some blue sky into these, but looking back over Blue Mesa Reservoir the thunderheads were really pretty. As we drove along we came to a pull-out where a formation called Pinnacles was reflected in almost perfectly smooth water.
We parked at the top of the hill and then walked down the 232 steps to get to the canyon bottom. If only I had known how many times on this trip I’d be walking down (and, of course, back up) many hundreds of steps, I’d have spent a lot of hours on a stair-stepper before starting. It wouldn’t have done anything for the fact that we’ve been at 7,000’ or thereabouts but it might have made my legs a little stronger. As it is, I do 20 or 30 steps and then stop to look at the rocks, the view, the vegetation or any other excuse to just not move for a while until I can get enough oxygen into my body to take off again.
This is the 3/4 mile trail that we walked at the canyon bottom to get to the boat dock. It is an old rail bed. Those railroad men in the late 1800’s were incredibly optimistic – who in their right mind would ever think you could build a railroad through a canyon that is mostly straight up and down and way the heck a long way down from the top of the plateau, but they did it! ( I took these shots the next day from the other rim of the canyon.)
After our whole boat load of people finally arrived (the strict instructions to allow at least half an hour for the walk to arrive no later than 12:15 surely didn’t mean that some people actually needed to pay attention to them, no matter that they were repeated multiple times when they made the reservations) and we sailed off down the Morrow Reservoir between sheer cliffs of rocks that were laid down 2 Billion years ago.
It was pretty awesome to realize that as tall as the cliffs were on either side of us, the water covered half their actual depth. If we had 600-800 feet of cliff above us, there was that much more beneath us!
This spire called The Needle was used as the symbol of the Rio Grande railroad, which ran through the canyon and on to the gold and silver fields of Silverton, Durango and down to Antonito and Chama, where we rode the train last week.
On Friday, we drove along the rim of the northern side of the canyon. There are beginning to be signs of autumn here and there.
The views of the canyon were pretty spectacular from the northern side.
Friday night we went to the town’s planetarium to see the night sky. We only got about half an hour of star gazing as the twilight deepened, and then the next thunderstorm moved in and covered up the stars, but it’s certainly a place to go the next time we’re in this part of the world. I find myself very fond of Gunnison.
Today (Saturday, 25 Aug) we moved over to Montrose on the western end of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It’s lower in altitude, flatter in geology, and warm enough to remind us that it’s still summer.